World Pneumonia Day, held annually on November 12, is an opportunity to raise awareness about pneumonia globally; to promote prevention and treatment; and to generate action to fight the illness. World Pneumonia Day is designed to create public awareness about pneumonia, promote interventions for preventing and treating pneumonia, and support action plans to combat pneumonia.
Pneumonia is an acute infection that affects the lungs, making breathing difficult and limiting oxygen intake. Poor nutrition, lack of breastfeeding, exposure to indoor air pollution or passive smoke exposure, HIV infection, premature birth, overcrowding and poor living circumstances predispose a child to developing pneumonia.
Pneumonia is the also the commonest cause of infectious disease-related death in adults. In 2010, lower respiratory tract infections (including pneumonia) ranked second only to ischaemic heart disease in terms of total burden of disease, accounting for the loss of 115 million disability-adjusted life years worldwide.
Pneumonia is the cause of death in nearly one in five children under 5 years worldwide. While pneumonia deaths in children under 5 years of age have fallen from 1.7 million cases to 1.3 million cases annually over the past decade, too many children die from pneumonia every year. Most of these deaths are preventable, and more than half of all deaths occur outside a health facility. Pneumonia also impacts older children and adults, often in many low-income settings, the impact of HIV and exposures to tobacco smoke and air pollution). Pneumonia is a major reason for hospitalization and health care utilization in all countries.
Most cases of pneumonia are preventable or treatable. For most patients effective management of severe pneumonia requires simple interventions — supplemental oxygen, prompt provision of appropriate antibiotics and intravenous fluids. Strategies to improve the delivery of these basic aspects of acute care in low-income countries, in particular, expanding oxygen provision, which is often inadequate, should be prioritized. Vaccines can prevent some pneumonia, but availability is limited in many countries.
FIRS calls on governments, health care programs, clinicians, public health specialists and non-government organizations to strengthen the following interventions to reduce the burden and deaths from pneumonia:
- Strengthen health systems to ensure access to effective preventative and treatment strategies for pneumonia including:
- Vaccination against whooping cough (pertussis), measles, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) andStreptococcus pneumoniae. Universal access to pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) is a priority for all children;
- Timely, appropriate treatment, including antibiotics, supplemental oxygen, and referral to hospital when needed. Case management of childhood pneumonia as contained in the Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) program is highly effective;
- Optimize childhood nutrition including promotion of exclusive breastfeeding until 6 months of age and continued breastfeeding complemented by nutritious solid foods thereafter;
- Improve access to safe drinking water, hand washing facilities and sanitation;
- Reduce exposure of children to passive smoke and to indoor air pollution;
- Reduce HIV incidence and severity through strengthening of prevention of mother to child programs and early use of antiretroviral therapy; an
- Increase funding for research to develop improved strategies for prevention and management of pneumonia